EVERY Thursday when the Guardian is published, a whole team of volunteers springs into action to help people who can’t read the news to find out about what’s going on in their community.

Once our weekly titles hit the shelves, the super-efficient team at Vale Royal Talking News gets ready to spend a long day, editing, presenting, reading, recording and distributing the local stories of the week to up to 100 visually impaired people across Northwich, Winsford and Middlewich.

Established in 1977 by ICI employee Harry Bailey, the charity is run solely by volunteers committed to ensuring that its listeners can stay connected to where they live, and they’ve done such a good job they’ve even received The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

Kathy Wade, from Castle, was one of the very first volunteers having signed up a few months after its launch while an employee at ICI, and today she’s the group’s honorary secretary.

Although changes have had to be made in recent months to how the service works because of COVID-19, Kathy explained how the 60-strong team of volunteers would normally bring the news to the service’s listeners.

“The work of the Talking News is carried out by four separate teams who record the local news every Thursday – sometimes there are five Thursdays in the month and then we have to pull together an extra team,” she said.

“When the Guardian is published on a Thursday morning, the first members of that week’s team start work. Copies of the paper are collected and the editor for that week reads it and selects items for inclusion in the recording that will go out.

“The readers, the editor and the recordist arrive at the Northwich Library in Witton Street and record the items, taking it in turns to read so that each week’s recording has a variety of voices. The recording is done onto a computer via a sound deck. Meanwhile, a separate team of one or two readers makes a recording of the sports news.”

While one team of volunteers is reading the news, another team is busy sorting the previous week’s memory sticks into wallets which have been returned from the listeners via Royal Mail. These are sorted and checked ready to be re-recorded with the latest news.

About two hours later, after all the reading and recording is done, it’s over to the copiers who, having cleared the memory sticks from the previous week, are ready to copy the new recordings.

Northwich Guardian:

These recordings are then labelled and taken to the post office ready for dispatch. Once listeners have finished with the memory stick, they simply reverse the label on the wallet and pop it into the post, ready for collection the following week when the process begins all over again.

“There’s a lot of other jobs behind the scenes too to ensure everything runs smoothly,” added Kathy.

“We have people who look after the finances, people who look after the equipment, people who collate contacts from a referral. We also provide players for people who haven’t got suitable players to listen to.”

Because of the coronavirus, the group has had to rejig how it works with the readers recording from home, but they hope to be able to return to the library as soon as possible where they’ll be able to record in a COVID-safe environment. They’ve also recently set up the option for users to link from their website to play directly through Alexa.

For Kathy, the reason the free service is so important because it helps users, who are often elderly or isolated, to keep in touch with what’s going on where they live.

“It’s a lot of work to compress into a day, but it works and you get a great feeling of reward, especially when listeners say how much they appreciated the service," she said.

One listener, who nominated the charity for The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, said: “When my husband died, I was bereaved and lonely and I have found that having the Talking Newspaper has helped to relieve that.”

Another listener added: “I very much look forward to it arriving each week. It keeps me in touch with what is happening locally which, as I can’t read, I wouldn’t know about otherwise. I enjoy and appreciate the work that is put into it.”

Northwich Guardian: The Vale Royal Talking News committeeThe Vale Royal Talking News committee

Like most charities, the service is dependant on the goodwill of volunteers and Kathy says the team is always looking out for new members to undertake the variety of tasks that go into making the recordings.

“We’re also would like to hear from anyone who might be in need of the service. If you think that you might benefit, or know someone who would then please do get in touch with us.”

To find out more about how to get involved or to take advantage of the service visit vr-talkingnews.com or contact Kathy on 07972 754865.